Categories
Children life

Musings of a New Mom

Parenthood is fulfilling. It’s surreal. It’s a blessing. Parenthood is frustrating. And exhausting. And anxiety fueling. Parenting, especially being a mom, is a never ending responsibility. Even when I’m not with her, I can’t help but wonder what she’s up to. And she’s only 10 months old. She’s not even able to leave the house or do anything on her own yet. How will it be in 10 more months? In five years? In ten years?

Being a mom is objectively the most fulfilling lifestyle I’ve incorporated. It’s enhanced my belief in the universe and a higher power. I don’t believe everyone should be a parent, nor that it is everyone’s purpose. I think the conversation about having children is too nuanced for this post, though I touch a little on it here. I do think being a mother is meant to be a part of my journey. Experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, and becoming a parent has given me a new perspective on life. It’s caused me to view other parents in a different light and has made it even easier for me to extend grace to others. It’s similar to how when you’re a child you view adults on a pedestal, looking up to them, only to grow up and realize everyone is really just trying their best and struggling in at least one area of their lives. There’s a different level of understanding of what parenthood is after being an active parent and caretaker.

Something I learned as a parent is that there really isn’t a right way to parent. Objectively there are “wrong” ways, because to a point human development is a science, we experience emotions, and trauma is everlasting, but there is no clear cut, one size fits all, way to parenting. People will shame and judge for minuscule things (like formula versus breast milk) and half of those people won’t even have kids of their own. What’s important is being active, present, and supportive for your child in whatever way works for your lifestyle and family.

Being a mom has given a new meaning to the word sacrifice, especially in the midst of covid. I spent nine months sacrificing my body for her. I’ll spend the rest of my life making decisions I hope benefits both of us. I’ve said “no” to outings I would have otherwise done in a heartbeat. Being a mom has made me more thoughtful and intentional in my actions. It’s made me want and hopefully succeed in being more present in my day to day life and spend less time on my phone and inside my inner world. It’s made me understand and become even more appreciative of the sacrifices and choices my parents have made throughout our lives to give my brother and I the lives they’ve given us.

Parenthood makes me anxious. Because what if one day she just stops breathing when she’s sleeping? (Luckily I think we’re past the SIDS phase). Or what if she hits her head too many times when she’s playing? Or what if I’m not doing enough to teach her and am stifling her development? What if I’m not spending enough time with her? And in this way, parenting really is a sort of projection. It forces you to look at yourself and your fears and your guilt and your boundaries. It forces you to look at how you were raised and decide how you want to parent.

Sometimes, I find myself comparing my daughter’s growth to the babies I’ve seen born around the same time. Sometimes I wonder if other people parent in similar ways than I do or if I’m just completely off mark in some respects. Sometimes, I feel guilty the few times I’m out with friends without her. Sometimes, I wish I had a little more free time and space to be carefree away from responsibilities.

In a few years there has to be studies on the effect the pandemic has made on babies and pregnancy. Being pregnant during a pandemic was experiencing two traumas at once. Being pregnant during a pandemic after graduating college, I could argue was experiencing three. I was experiencing three major changes in my life with little face to face contact with others. It felt like out of nowhere I popped up with a baby because few people actually saw me pregnant. Few people knew until late in my second trimester. And now I have a baby and we’re still in this weird standby with Covid, so few people have seen her in person. One of my friends was asking for more pictures of her, and it’s made me realize outside of social media, I really don’t think to send out pictures or updates of her in texts. I was thinking about why, and it is really for no other reason than the fact that I experienced pregnancy pretty isolated from people outside of my household. And now that the world is sort of opening up and I’m less isolated, I have to link the two realities.

The craziest part about parenting is seeing my little girl develop and do new things she wasn’t doing before. Before having a baby, I have been around babies and toddlers and children, but in their separate stages. I had never seen human development day by day with my own eyes before. Now she’s clapping and trying to stand all the time. She recognizes certain words. She knows her name. In ten plus months my baby went from a solely eating, sleeping, pooping newborn who couldn’t lift her head to a full blown baby who is starting to eat solids, who can crawl, and can sit up and stand by herself. Babies’ development is so drastic in the first year and it’s amazing to see it play out with my own eyes. She’s really growing and learning. She’s really almost a toddler.

Time has been moving so differently since the pandemic and my pregnancy. Sometimes, I worry I will blink and she’ll already be twenty one. She’s only a few months away from being a year, and I still look at her newborn pictures with nostalgia. It feels like it happened so long ago. It makes me want to freeze time.

Around this time (October 27th, 2021), a post has been going around Twitter from a mother who was struggling and unhappy in an attempt to shame her. I don’t have a picture of the post but it was a call for help. She was expressing some regrets and frustration about the reality of motherhood for her. And as parents, specifically mothers, it’s worth mentioning that society doesn’t often extend grace to us the way we deserve. The idea of being a super mom has become propaganda. People use the fact the most of the time motherhood is a choice as a weapon against mothers. People expect mothers to be at the top of their game all the time and to care for their kids without complaint or mentioning how their life has changed. (Please note, they don’t expect the same from fathers though).

Most people don’t genuinely know how or have the thought or time to be supportive of mothers. Unless you yourself are an active parent or caregiver, you will never fully understand that amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy that goes into caring for someone else. (Caring for pets can bring similar feelings but it’s different). And when you’re caring for someone else, you’re also caring for yourself and handling your own responsibilities too. That’s double on your plate, assuming you’re only responsible for one other person. I don’t know how people with multiple babies and toddlers do it. I don’t know how truly single mothers do it. I don’t know how teen mothers do it. I have newfound respect for parents and caregivers honestly. I can’t stress that enough.

It sucks that mothers, including myself, feel the need to shower the benefits of motherhood before talking about the harder parts. Why do we have to have the disclaimer– My kid is the best thing that has happened to me– before saying it hurt when she head butted me in the mouth while throwing a tantrum and caused my lip to bleed. Why do we feel so shamed to talk about the frustrations of raising and guiding another human being? Parenting is hard! You have to look at yourself and your boundaries and remember that your baby or toddler isn’t intentionally being harmful when they do hurtful things. One minute my baby is cute and precious and the next she’s testing my patience. I roll my eyes at every tantrum and cherish every moment of affection. No matter how she acts, I still love her the same and will always love her with my entire heart.

Being a parent is a living oxymoron. When she’s fussy, I beg for her to take a nap. And when she’s asleep, I want her to wake up. My daughter makes me roll my eyes when she cries because she can’t chew on my glasses and in a moment can make me smile when she rests her head on me. She makes me laugh when she has a giggle fit. She makes me frustrated when she bites me cause she’s teething. She makes me proud when she babbles back in conversation and makes me grin when she starts bouncing to a song. And when I want a break and leave her with one of my family members, I have the urge to check in after a few minutes. This goes back to the guilt of experiencing things for and by myself. It’s like when it’s summer you want it to be winter. When it’s winter, you want it to be summer. It’s probably best just to embrace the moment.

The reality is once you become an active parent or caregiver, few things are ever just about you anymore. The only time I have completely by myself is in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep and on my commute to work. Any plans made requires approval for someone else to make sure they will watch the baby or going to a family friendly place. Before, I wanted to succeed in my career; now I have to continue gaining experience so that I can thrive in it. Being a mom, for me, means she comes first. There’s a reason airplanes instruct parents to help themselves first, in case of an emergency; that’s not the instinct. Being a mom means I make sure she’s settled before I eat or leave for work. It means she’s asleep or someone’s with her before I go to sleep. It means I think twice before making plans and I give myself an extra hour to get ready to leave the house. It’s means I rush when I do anything that takes my attention away from her.

Being a parent can take away from your individuality. Children need pretty constant attention in the early years of childhood. Everything is about the baby for at least the first year- I’m not sure when that ends. Especially when the baby is a newborn, people will check in on the baby, before checking in on you. They’ll understandably ask to see the baby when making plans with you. And when other people see you taking time away from your child, whether they themselves are parents or not, they tend to have something negative to say. Again, this is more so directed at mothers than fathers.

I have support, so it’s not like I can never have time to myself, but it doesn’t shake the guilt that comes with even the thought of taking time for myself. It’s been ten almost eleven months and I’ve never been away from her for an entire day. The idea of leaving her for that long is still hard. My baby didn’t ask to be born into this world; the least I can do is be present for her. This doesn’t mean that I and other mothers and parents are not still our own people though. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve time away sometimes just because we chose to have children. It is so important to me that I and others don’t lose ourselves in parenthood and instead let it enhance us and became just another one of our identities.

My priorities, mindset, and perspective has completely changed from a year ago since becoming pregnant and a mother. Creating a happy and healthy life for my daughter and I is my goal in life. She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t think I can truly express how much I love her with words, even when she gets on my nerves.

Categories
Children life Pregnancy Self Love and Personal Growth

3 Months Post-Partum

It’s been three months, actually closer to four months by the time this is posted, since I gave birth. Giving birth via c-section was an experience to say the least. It was my third turning point on the ride that is the idea and reality of having children. (My first turning point was knowing I want children one day. The second was finding out I was pregnant). What came after were the first days of the rest of my life raising another human being.

My baby didn’t open her eyes for the first couple of weeks because the light was too bright. She was used to the darkness of the womb. For I don’t know how long, she’d eat and poop and pee and sleep. Then she’d wake up and cry because she’s hungry and drift off back to sleep, only to wake up and cry because she fell asleep too soon and was still hungry. Then, one day, she opened her eyes and it’s become a daily thing every time she is awake.

The thing I didn’t know until this experience is that parents lack sleep because babies need to eat every 2-4 hours, including during the middle of the night and early in the morning. If the baby doesn’t wake up by the 3-4 hour mark, you’re supposed to wake them up, and try to get them to eat. Call it efficient, or anxiety-fueled, or the steps a new mom would take, but for the first couple of weeks I set timers to ensure she was eating as often as recommended, especially at night, to make sure she was gaining weight. I don’t set timers anymore, mainly because she’s good at waking herself up when she’s hungry.

In the beginning, she would wake up anytime she was put down. She constantly wanted to be in someone’s arm and could tell when she wasn’t. As time goes on she gets more comfortable not being held all the time, though she prefers it. She still sleeps longer when she’s close to someone. You can tell when she’s knocked out cause her mouth will be open as she sleeps.

Week by week she stays awake a little longer and sleeps a little less. One day she smiled at me for the first time for no particular reason. Another day she laughed while she was awake, versus in her sleep, which was the only time I’d heard her laugh before. She tries to climb up me when we’re sitting down and bawls her eyes out when I clear out the mucus and boogers from her nose.

She’s developed different cries when she needs different things. She whines when she’s tired and is fighting sleep. She smiles when she sees a ceiling fan and the artwork on the walls. She’s curious when she’s in a new environment. She gets excited when she sees me or the friendly and familiar faces of our immediate family. She’s starting to babble more often and in response to us talking to her. She laughs when she’s amused and likes to stick her tongue out at us when she’s feeling playful. She chews on everything, especially her hands. She’s even trying to hold her own bottle.

In three months my baby has grown so much. She’s gained weight and gotten longer. Her eyebrows and eyelashes have grown in. Her umbilical cord fell off and her belly button, which was protruding, is slowly getting smaller and going in. She’s getting more hair on top of her head, which changes texture week by week. She’s gone up in diaper sizes. It’s surreal seeing her grow and noticing the changes in her physicality, personality, and development. She’s growing so fast it’s unreal. It makes my heart melt and ache.

I can talk about her all day. She’s allowed me to experience a different type of love. She’s allowed me to look at other children and other parents with more awe, respect, and understanding than I have in the past. Knowing she came from me is still surreal. She means more to me than I can put into words.

The c-section recovery was hard for me. My incision didn’t fully heal until 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, after my delivery. It took 10 weeks, 2 1/2 months, for me to be cleared to exercise and go back to work.

Those were hard weeks because I couldn’t be self-sufficient. In the first couple of weeks it hurt to move, sleep, and laugh. It felt impossible to get comfortable. My autoimmune disease was also being a nuisance and I wasn’t cleared to breastfeed with the medication I needed to be on. That being said, I had to make the transition from breastfeeding to formula, which was something I wasn’t originally planning to do so soon.

Breastfeeding in itself is hard work. Breasts get engorged with milk which hurts, so you pump to store, which only stimulates more milk production. I had to ride out the engorging when I made the decision to stop breastfeeding because I was trying to lessen my supply. With breastfeeding it can be hard to get the baby to latch. Though my daughter didn’t have too much trouble with that, with the pain I was in, finding a comfortable position for the both of us was challenging. Also, being woken up every 2 hours, which was how often my daughter woke up to eat at first, was exhausting. It also hurt my nipples when she latched; nipple cream comes in handy with chafing.

I was sad about not being able to breastfeed for as long as I wanted, and held it off for as long as I could. On the upside, once I switched I didn’t have to deal with those challenges of breastfeeding anymore. Also, I have full autonomy of my body back. I can eat and drink anything without worrying if it is safe for the baby. I feel mobile again. I said bye bye to the nausea and the vomiting almost immediately after giving birth.

2 1/2 months later, about a month ago, I started working again. It was the first time I was away from my baby since giving birth. (And I started working sooner than I could have. I could have gone back in May). I mistakenly came back earlier than I was ready for and felt lost. Covid plays a role in all this too. I was on leave and social distancing for so long, it was hard to get into the rhythm of being around strangers and acquaintances. I got annoyed easier, especially when dealing with rude people. I would see children and think of my own baby. My hormones felt all over the place. I mean, I was still and still am producing milk. My breasts leak a little every once and a while and my period has yet to make an appearance. Needless to say, going back to work was a lot.

I rode it out though and am getting used to spending time away from my baby. Still, being a new mom and having a kid who is only a couple months old came with some baggage. I had some guilt about leaving her for work and not being home when she wakes up in the morning. I have trips planned without her to support my individuality but am worried about leaving and missing her. I constantly want to be around her. Sometimes, I need a break and am given one, only to miss her and want her back.

I also experienced anxiety specific to being a new mom. It gets better as time goes on. In the beginning I had a lot of anxiety throughout the day when I wasn’t with her, even if she was just a room away. I had/have anxiety about dropping her. Sometimes, the anxiety has affected my sleep; I wake up instantly thinking about her and go to check on her.

When people say it takes a village, they really aren’t lying. Raising another human being is a 24 hour gig. There’s no days or time off. And even though I go to work and have vacations planned without her, she was, is, and will always be there in the back of my mind. I’m so grateful for my parents and my brother who are always down to babysit when I’m working and watch her when I’m running an errand or sleeping. I can tell they love her as much as I do and that she feels the same about them. I know this experience would be ten times harder and more draining if I didn’t have their help and support.

I will say it is a little weird to call her my daughter still, mainly because of social distancing and the fact that I moved back to my hometown. And although I love speaking about her and my experience and sharing pictures, I don’t talk about her much to others daily, besides mentioning her existence, unless they bring her up first and ask questions. Most people I know don’t have kids and are in the “fuck them kids” stage of their life. Plus, I know it could get a little annoying. It’s also wild that I’m meeting people who will never know me when I wasn’t a mom. Like, every person I meet from now on will always know and see me as a mom among my other identities and qualities versus the person I was before I was pregnant. It’s wild and it just reaffirms that I’m in a new stage of my life. Because, let’s be real; having kids changes you. It’s changed me and given me a new outlook on life.

Society also has a weird thing against moms, especially single moms, especially black single moms. I don’t know exactly how to describe this disdain. I’m sure it’s rooted in misogyny and misogynoir. But there’s this pressure to be a “good” mom whatever that means. There’s pressure to give birth a certain way and to breastfeed. There’s pressure to go back to work quickly. There’s pressure to spend all of your time with your baby without any breaks or time without them. There’s pressure to endure a nine month pregnancy, birth a child, and raise a kid for the rest of your and their life while working and to make it appear as if all those things are done flawlessly, without breaking a sweat. There’s pressure to act a certain way because you’re a mother now. There’s pressure to raise your kids a certain way, especially by people who don’t even have children. There’s pressure to lose all of the baby weight and to lose it all quickly. Regardless, I have to remind myself that I am more than a mom and more than a single black mom. They are parts of me, but not all of me. My life encompasses my daughter’s, but they are still two separate lives. I don’t have to live up to the imaginary standards society places onto motherhood.

The hardest parts about being a mom so far has been the change in sleeping habits, accepting the change in my weight and my body, and the new mom anxiety. The best parts about being a mom are watching her grow before my eyes, experiencing this type of love, and honestly just her entire existence. These three/ four months have been a whirlwind. They’ve also been life changing and worthwhile. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything and it’s exciting to see where life will take us from here.

Categories
Children Food For Thought life Pregnancy

The Mindset Behind Having Children

A friend texted me the other day regarding my last blog post, which talked about my pregnancy and my decision to keep the, now baby, growing inside of me. She told me that she also envisioned herself having a kid, without the father or a partner by her side. That for some reason, she pictures herself pregnant with her belly out and that’s it.

Texting with her about her thoughts and sharing mine made me think more about how society expects people to have children and to have them a certain way. We’re lowkey taught that babies come out of love and out of marriage. I mean, we were singing on the playground “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.” Most people do not envision having children until they are married. And I get it because we are taught that. I get it because children are looked at as two people’s legacies. I get it, because the idea of marriage brings about an idea of stability, which is important for babies and children growing up. With marriage, one can assume you would have someone to make decisions with, to lean on, and to help take care of and raise the children. Regardless of my understanding of this thinking, I think society needs to shift its mindset behind it.

For one, not every person with a uterus wants to have children. That, like most ideas regarding children and marriage, comes from a traditional way of thinking. Women were expected to stay home, raise a family, and take care of their husbands back in the day. Hell, some men still expect that now, whether they are aware of it or not, when it is not reality. It should’ve never been the reality, but you know, misogyny. Women are people with their own goals, feelings, thoughts, and lives. Surprise, surprise. Some people with uteruses do not see babies or raising children fitting into their life plan. What’s the problem with that?

And on the topic of tradition, let me just mention real quick that people, mainly women, weren’t really supposed to have sex outside of marriage. Doing so would strip them of their “purity.” They would become “whores” and “harlots,” unwanted by a man they could’ve married for soiling their name. Back then, marriage was a woman’s main role. The concept of virginity was just another attempt by men, and upheld socially by both men and women, to control women and their actions because of their “inferiority.” Effects of this still exist today, including but not limited to, the concept of slut shaming, for example.

There’s still the pushing of people, mainly woman, to just get married and have children already. For why, though? Why rush them into lifelong commitments with a partner or with children? Why rush married people into having children? What if they can’t have or afford children? What is societies need of focusing and controlling other people’s lives?

Don’t get me wrong, I still envision getting married and having more kids one day. Even though it is a want, it isn’t a need. As I said in that previous post, I have always wanted to be a mother more than a wife. Over the years, I began to view children, for what they are: people who come about because of sex. I grew out of the mindset that children were products of love or a relationship. Yes, consensual sex sometimes occurs out of love, but that is not the reality for everyone. Yes, consensual marriage tends to come out of love, and married people tend to have sex, but in the long term some marriages lead to divorce. Some people fall out of love. Some people begin loving someone else. I didn’t and don’t want to feel stuck to someone solely because of another person, even if it is our child. I didn’t and don’t want to stay in a relationship because of a child. I don’t want to rush a relationship because of a child. It’s why I didn’t move in with my baby’s “father” when he suggested it after we found out I was pregnant. I don’t want to have an abortion if I feel ready and am able to raise a child, even if the other person isn’t on board. And ultimately I didn’t have an abortion because I didn’t want one, could adjust my life to raise a child, and I don’t view children as products of a relationship or of love.

When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to co-parent, especially because I was worried about having a boy. Co-parenting simply put, is two people raising a child together who are not in a serious romantic relationship. From my viewpoint, boys tend to take not having a father around more personally than girls; I only say this because, when girls grow up, they tend to understand the situation because of their own interactions with men. Co-parenting can be just as productive as a married couple or a couple in a relationship raising a child together. What matters is that kids feel loved, understood, and supported. What matters is that both parties are mature, can communicate effectively, are on the same page, and support one another. These concepts can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible while co-parenting. It can be achieved, challenging, or seemingly impossible in marriages and among couples in relationships. Living under the same roof makes raising children easier, but it’s not necessary, especially if you give your child the tools to understand the situation without judgement when they’re older. Why can’t someone choose a specific person to co-parent with? Why can’t two people who know they want children do so platonically without judgement?

As time went on, I realized, with this person, I didn’t want to co-parent. I wanted it because society says children need both parents to thrive. I wanted it because he said he would be there. I wanted it because society looks at people who stray away from tradition differently. Though she may not be the only one, for now at least, she’ll be a girl without a father on Father’s Day. I wanted it because growing up, at least for now, my daughter will think something is missing because society will continuously tell her that, even if she doesn’t feel that way at first.

I changed my mind about co-parenting because I realized the tools I stated earlier that are needed for it to be successful aren’t there. He also isn’t ready for the responsibility, regardless of what he told himself in the beginning. Forcing that to work would only harm her more in the long run. Regardless of what the laws say, regardless of what society says, having both parents in a child’s life is not always the best option, even in non extreme circumstances. People who think their parents should get divorced can understand this. People who have seen children used as pawns or ways for parents to feel control and power can understand this. People who get along with one parent and not the other can understand this. The knowledge of this, however, will not change how a child feels about it growing up, but hopefully with honest communication and the tools needed for understanding, they will come to understand and accept it, without it affecting them negatively.

Another example, to wrap this up, I was watching Insecure on HBO by Issa Rae months ago. I was around two months pregnant. Spoiler alert, one of the side characters ends up pregnant. Of course she’s pregnant by the man the protagonist is trying to get back together with. She tells him she’s pregnant, tells him she was ready to have a baby, and tells him he doesn’t have to help. After all of that, when the episode aired, people were commenting on Twitter that her choice was selfish. That is was weird she was ready to have a child with a man she wasn’t in a relationship with when she had gotten an abortion in a previous, more serious, relationship. That she was messing up his current relationship because she knew he would stick around to help her with the baby.

All of the blame regarding the situation went to her and people questioned her intentions, but no one said anything about the man who got her pregnant. No one said that he should be around because he is also responsible for her pregnancy. No one thought it could work out successfully through co-parenting and the protagonist being understanding of the awkward but workable situation. The new season isn’t out, so it’s unclear what her intentions actually are. Still the fact people’s first response was that she was having the baby to trap him is ridiculous. I’m not saying people don’t do that. I’m saying that we are so conditioned to view children as products of a relationship and of love that even when a fictional woman chooses to keep a baby, even if it means she will be a single mom, people assume it’s to keep a man close by. People are pro-choice when it comes to having an abortion, and rightly so, but when it comes to choosing to have a baby with or without the partner present, then people start acting weird, calling the decision selfish. I can’t tell you how much guilt I was made to feel for making the decision that was best for me.

I always pictured having my first child without a partner. Although I was content with it when it was just an idea, and I am content with it as my reality, it does not change how society views it. It doesn’t change the few people who were surprised I said I was going to continue with the pregnancy, even though the relationship wasn’t serious. It can be hard to ignore the stigma around single moms, especially black ones. It doesn’t change people’s thoughts that a woman would have a child just to keep a man around. It can be hard not to feel a type of way when people say on social media that women should “choose better men” or “not open their legs for bums.” And tell me how a lack of responsibility on the man’s part leads to judgement of a woman?

All of this just made me think, what’s wrong with a person with a uterus choosing to have a child alone? Why must it be a product of a relationship or of love? Why would it be more acceptable if I chose to have a baby for and with a man versus for myself?